Some people find their retirement years relaxing, while others find them boring. If you’re looking for ways to fill your time, volunteering is a great option. It’s a nice way to pass time and it’s fulfilling for the mind, too. Having said this, we understand that it can be intimidating to get out there and look for new opportunities given the recent pandemic environment. It’s important to keep your own health as a priority, so we wanted to share some tips to help you volunteer without risking your health.
Volunteering Has Many Benefits
Most people decide to volunteer because they want to help others. The work brings a sense of purpose and fulfillment, especially when you get to see the people you’re helping directly. Getting involved in the community through volunteer work also opens connections to new people of all ages; this helps bridge the age gap and shares knowledge among generations. Not to mention, these people may become friends.
Overall, volunteering can be good for your physical, spiritual, and mental health. The social engagement, among other things, can help you counter anxiety and depression, all while giving back to society.
To summarize, volunteering can…
- Give a sense of purpose and fulfillment
- Bridge the age gap
- Improve your physical, spiritual, and mental health
- Help counter anxiety and depression
- Increase social engagement
- Give back to society
Here’s What You Should Know Before Committing
There are several considerations to make before applying for volunteer positions, so we compiled a list to guide you through them.
#1: How Much Time Should You Commit?
Like any job, you should consider the amount of time you want to spend there. It can be as low as a few hours a month or as high as ten hours a week (or more!). It’s up to you, and knowing this ahead of time helps the company or program you’re volunteering with to plan their schedules.
Keep in mind that some work is more tiring than others; if you’re volunteering for a weed-pull event in the community garden or a litter clean-up project around the city, you might not want to commit to helping every day that week because it’s physically tiring work. Even after a long, soothing bath at the end of the day, you may not be fully recharged for another day of physical work right away. But if you’re volunteering to talk with someone over the phone, you could be available several times a week.
In the current pandemic environment, there’s been an increase in virtual opportunities for connections. If you’re not yet comfortable using Zoom, Facetime, or other video software, ask a friend or family member for a quick run-down. It may be challenging at first but it’s certainly worth it when you get to see people’s faces and talk in real-time, whether it’s for volunteer work or just staying in touch.
#2: What Are Your Interests and Passions?
It can be fun to spend time writing out your interests and passions in a notebook. Then, you can read over it and think about different programs in your city that you can help. Do you like painting? Perhaps you can help teach painting at a care home, if protocols allow.
When you volunteer for work that relates to your hobbies and interests, your passion comes across to those you’re helping and can inspire them, as well. You’ll likely get more gratification from this work, too.
#3: Are There Volunteering Expenses?
Most senior living community programs have ways to help with expenses. For instance, most volunteer programs take care of the costs incurred in the course of a day. This makes it easier for many seniors to join these volunteer programs without worrying about the costs.
When you’re looking at your options, keep expenses in mind if you’re on a tight budget; giving back to the community is fantastic but we wouldn’t want the work to put you in a bad financial position. There may be increased costs if you’re required to wear new disposable masks frequently (as opposed to reusable ones); perhaps the organization can supply these for you if so.
#4: Could You Work With a Volunteer Organization?
There are many programs in cities worldwide that match volunteers to volunteer opportunities. These organizations have databases of available work and will know all about the expenses, precautions, safety measures, and everything else that’s involved. They’ll know all about which opportunities are preferred by seniors compared to young adults and can make recommendations.
To start out, do a quick online search to see which organizations you can get in contact with. For example, here in Lethbridge you could type in “volunteer lethbridge” and find the organization called www.volunteerlethbridge.com as well as the city’s page for getting involved in the community.
From here, look into the opportunities they suggest and see if they fit your values and aspirations. As we mentioned above, the best opportunities are those that match your interests and passions. To prepare yourself, consider finding answers to the following questions:
- What’s a typical day in the life of a volunteer?
- What Covid-19 precautions does the organization follow?
- What items should you bring along?
- Is there any culturally sensitive information you should be aware of?
- Can talk to a previous or current volunteer?
- What are the long-term plans and goals for the program?
- Do they have statistical data of their impact in society?
#5: Do You Prefer Individual or Group Settings?
There are often autonomous opportunities to get involved as well ones in group settings. If your goal in volunteering is to make new friends, the obvious choice is to look for opportunities in group settings, like a weed pull or litter clean up.
If you’d rather work alone or on a more personal basis, you could consider letter-writing, phone calls, or fundraising projects. Don’t be afraid to ask your local volunteer organization about work that would be ideal for seniors who wish to social distance.
A Reminder About Covid-19 Precautions
As we mentioned, it’s important to keep your own safety in mind when getting involved in the community, and also the safety of the community as a whole. In the current pandemic situation, continue to follow all local precautions. Be sure to ask around about what opportunities suit your specific needs; if you’re itching to get involved but still prefer to stay isolated, there are opportunities where this is possible. If you are going out into the community to interact with others, it’s a good idea to carry a small bag of supplies like masks, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes.
Don’t be discouraged if you get turned away for the time being. Many places are still very sensitive to the impacts of the virus and can’t risk bringing outsiders inside just yet. Keep searching for other volunteer opportunities that you can do safely, and when restrictions allow you can contact these places again.
Volunteering is rewarding and brings a new sense of purpose in our lives, all while benefiting our well-being. If you’re hoping to get out there right away, ask your local volunteer-matching organization for recommendations that suit your needs. Continue to follow local Covid protocols, consider the time and expenses you can commit, and look for work you can be passionate about.
Remember to make time for yourself, your family, and your friends, too. Find your own way to strike a balance between volunteer work and other commitments. We hope this helps!